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Photos Credit : Nils Nielsen and Liv Sansoz
Chamonix is an awesome place where most climbers, skiers and outdoor lovers would love to live there. But unique and amazing also means very crowded. Finding a great place for a climbing or a skiing day without anybody else is sometimes a bit tricky.
Where to find a bit of adventure and tranquility when you only got the day? Together with Nils we thought of the Chardonnet peak, a nice summit we can see from everywhere down in the valley and on which none of us had been. Nils suggested an interesting way to climb and ski it, different that most people do. We got a plan!
So here we go, heading to the Grands Montets lift to reach the Argentière Bassin. After the ritual of the bin and the “hard bad” snow to ski down to the glacier we take the direction of the Chardonnet with no one either before or behind us (it will not last, the first groups to the Chardonnet pass will eventually show up… ) All this with an amazing point of vieux on the Verte peak, the Grande Rocheuse and the Droites face.
From there, we skin up toward the Chardonnet pass, on a typical spring morning hard snow. This year, I decided to reduce the size of my skis and the weight of my gear. Except for the few really good powder days, I have done all my alpine days with the Rocca Freebird, 75 under foot, and I had lots of fun and lots of confidence with a small but real ski. Same thing with the boots, I now use the Syborg a lot that weight less than a paire of Baturas… after a few times you get use to ski them just like any bigger boots.
The wind is blowing on the plateau and I’m glad we are getting inside the South-East couloir that seems protected. As its orientation means it, we are in full sun and the snow is already quite wet and heavy. But there is already a good track that makes the ascent easier and we’re gaining elevation at a good pace. The scenery is very Alpine but friendly, with the white of the snow and the beautiful orange granit. Below are a few pictures of Nils and myself.
A few short crossing to release the calves without slowing down…
Eventually, we are getting close to the summit…
Those couloirs are always longer that what we believe and that’s exactly how Gaston Rébuffat said, “the already steep terrain straightened again”… It became that steep that we had to get the rope out for the last 20 meters, steeper and with a really sugary snow that made the progression delicate. One small climbing step (or two or three) to get out of there and we finally reach the Forbes ridge.
An icy wind greets us at the exit of the couloir and my wet gloves from the hike up in the sun and wet snow freeze in two seconds, taking the closed form of my hands on the ice axes. There is some more sugary snow to climb on the ridge that does not make me feel comfortable. I have to stay concentrated on the feet for the traverse that leads to the summit.
No time nor desire to stop for too long on the summit, the wind is cold and some clouds are coming. We’ll wait for the tea and cookies… Nils is running in front and I barely got to snap a shot on the sharp ridge…
The descent is really nice with ridge first, then some snowy shoulders, a bit of route finding, a bit of anchors testing (two abseils to reach behind the Adams Reilly pass). Finally we reach the glacier of the Tour, one last abseil to get away from a big bergschrund and we can ski again! The descent at first still request some attention because of the crevasses but then the terrain get more flat with no crevasses and we can really enjoy our descent all the way down to the village of the Tour.
It was a sweet alpine day, a day like I like them!
The Chardonnet peak, a really nice summit on which I’ll come back with pleasure. Thanks for the little taste of adventure shared with my favorite man ;)